I wrote a post a while back about the analysis the Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee is doing on accident reports involving cyclists. The analysis showed that almost 80 percent of the police reports were done properly by the responding officer.

When I spoke with Eric Post, a TPCBAC member, he identified other trends they were seeing.

One trend has a direct impact to the bill being introduced, which would allow cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs.

According to Post, only 2 or 3 percent of the more than 600 accident reports they reviewed, involved cyclists running a stop sign. Nearly 28 percent of the bike/auto accidents were the result of a cyclist riding the wrong direction, either on the road, on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk.

“Drivers just aren’t looking to their right when they pull out,” Post said.

He said it is easy to write tickets for stop sign violations, but that isn’t what is causing the accidents.

“We want to encourage law enforcement to get these guys turned around to where they are going with the flow of traffic,” Post said. “If you want to one single thing to dramatically reduce the bike-auto collisions; it’s take care of the wrong way riders. They are the ones that are generating the lights and sirens and emergency rooms and ambulances and doctor bills.”

“We are hoping that law enforcement might rethink their focus in  ways that actually do have an impact in the community,” Post added.

Other patterns emerged during the committee’s  analysis of the reports.

Most of the reports were written by officers who hadn’t been to another bike/auto accident in the 2 years that the BAC looked at. One officer filled out six different reports in those two years, but the majority of the time it was done by an officer with no other bike/auto accident experience in the two year window.

According to Post, officers get training on how to handle bike/auto accidents and that it appears that most of the time it works as evidenced by the high percentage satisfactory police reports.

Although, the TPCBAC would like to see additional resources for officers who do respond.

“We talked about having some type of a designated position in Tucson Police department, where the officer had a resource available to him to pick up the radio and get a hold of a trained bicycle-type officer and say, ‘Here is what I see, here is what is going on, what do you think?'”

According to Post, there are currently three Tucson Police Department officers who are League of American Bicyclists trained cycling instructors. The hope is that one of them will become the liaison for officers responding to bike/auto accidents.

The last piece of information that struck the BAC was the number of hit and runs that are not investigated. Post said that obviously they couldn’t fault the officers for not following up if there isn’t a license plate number or some other identifying piece of information.

But he said the officers aren’t investigating even if there are witnesses and someone got a plate number.

“What we have learned is, unless it is a fatality or it was something really high profile, they are not going to go on a manhunt. They’re just not going to do it,” Post said.

He also said they have been told by officers and lawyers around Tucson, that unless the cyclist can identify the driver they won’t go after the driver. This is what Erik Ryberg was told when one of his clients was hit in the back with a baseball bat.

“Does that mean they (should) get off scott free? No. No,” Post said. “You’ve got the license plate, you know who owns the vehicle. You go out, you knock on the door, you talk to the guy and say, ‘hey, your automobile was seen in a hit and run we see some marks on the automobile.’ You do your investigation.”

“Very often somebody will say, ‘Ohh I didn’t know, or I felt something,'” Post said. Then you start getting confessions out of people and you can start moving forward.”

5 thoughts on “More details from BAC crash analysis”
  1. I really hope the BAC will use this study to get TPD to focus on the wrong-way riders, as Eric Post mentions. I think that’s very important. I also want to clarify that when Post says “Does that mean they get off scott free,” what he means is that they *shouldn’t* get off Scott-free — but currently they are. I’ve had clients who could identify the driver of a hit and run and still that driver was never cited, even though we found the driver and located his car and had witnesses to identify him. It’s just not a priority to go after people who hit bicyclists and then flee the scene.

    It’s something we need to fix.

    Thanks to Eric & Collin and the BAC for doing this. It was a hell of a lot of work and I hope the findings are used to make some progress with the Tucson Police Department.

    Erik Ryberg

  2. The crash analysis seems to be more of a TPD analysis, as it should be. One merit of this study is that it shows a flaw in comparing the Old Pueblo and Arizona to the rest of the world in a valid statistical manner because of variability in police procedure, training, motivation and who knows what else. Keep that in mind when interpreting macro studies and studies from other states and cities. Nevertheless, one has to start somewhere.

  3. I am very surprised by the police response here. I’m from Albuquerque, which has a very corrupt police department, but they still pursue hit and runs. I thought that no police department could be worse than Albuquerque’s, but it appears that Tucson’s is, at least with respect to motorist on cyclist collisions.

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